Busselton

After a day spent savouring the digestible delights of Margaret River, and a peaceful amble through a magnificent Karri forest, we thought there wasn’t much else we could do to top off a wonderful day. We were wrong. We arrived in Busselton as the sun was setting, casting an eerie light to the east. The longest wooden jetty in the southern hemisphere, Busselton Jetty stretches almost two kilometres out to sea.

1a.Busselton jetty

Construction began in 1853 and the jetty was gradually extended until the 1960s. Closed to shipping in 1972, a period of neglect ensued, along with damage by a cyclone in 1978 and a fire in 1999. The jetty has since been restored and the Underwater Observatory at the end is on the list of things to see next time.

1.Busselton jetty

Toward the west, the descending sun was creating a spectacle.

2.Busselton

We were the only ones on the sheltered beach, the calm waters of Geographe Bay gently lapping at the shore. The changing palette was mesmerising as Sol slipped below the horizon.

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A perfect end to a glorious day.

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Edinburgh

After leaving Inverness, we drove over the Grampian Mountains, with the intention of visiting Balmoral Castle. The snow became heavier

and as the temperature plummeted to -5ºC, we decided to head straight for Edinburgh instead. We arrived as the sun was setting

4.Edinburgh

and found a hotel we liked the look of. Unfortunately, they only had a room for one night but recommended another place for us. We were told it was opposite a big building, we couldn’t miss it. After driving past three times, we finally found Ashgrove House, but couldn’t see anything across the road in the dark. After a marvelous curry and a good night’s sleep, I opened the curtains and, sure enough, the Donaldson’s School, a residential and day school for the deaf, was certainly a big building across the road.

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Our accommodation was lovely, in the attic room of this beautiful Victorian villa built in 1868.

6.Ashgrove House

A short walk away, Edinburgh Castle loomed magnificently over the town.

7.Edinburgh Castle

Built on volcanic rock, there has been a royal castle on this site since the 12th century,

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with royals in residence up until 1633.

10.Edinburgh Castle,Half Moon Battery and Palace Block

The view from the castle over Edinburgh and beyond was stunning.

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As we left the castle, we caught a glimpse of the Firth of Forth between the buildings,

13.Firth of Forth

before setting off down the Royal Mile.

14.Royal Mile

The Scotch Whisky Experience was tempting but, as Michael isn’t keen on whisky, we opted for the 3D Loch Ness Experience instead.

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After treating ourselves to a pair of gold celtic rings, our keepsake from Scotland, we celebrated with a pint and bacon sandwich at the Royal Mile Tavern. I have seen condom machines in women’s toilets before, but never scotch whisky flavoured, nor with the advice to refrain from driving while using the product!

The old tenements and alleyways were fascinating

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as we made our way to the far end of the mile and the Palace of Holyroodhouse. The Queen’s Gallery is an art gallery that forms part of the palace and exhibits works from the Royal Collection.

20.Edinburgh

The palace as it stands today was built between 1671-1678 and is the official residence of the Queen when she is in Scotland.

21.Palace of Holyroodhouse

The fountain is a 19th century replica of the 16th century fountain at Linlithgow Palace, just 15 miles away.

22.Palace of Holyroodhouse fountain

We wandered back to the new town, absorbing the spectacular architecture of the Edinburgh skyline

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and the undying traditions of Scotland.

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The next morning, we detoured to Dalmeny to see the Forth Bridges before leaving Edinburgh. The magnificent railway bridge was opened in 1890 and is the second-longest single cantilever bridge span in the world.

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The 2.5km suspension road bridge was opened in 1964, six years after work began.

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We didn’t drive across it, instead heading in the opposite direction.

kaleidoscope skies

We have experienced some spectacular sunsets from out hilltop home and this one recently was a doozy. I noticed a red glow outside and, glancing out of the lounge window, this is what I saw.

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I grabbed my camera and raced outside to watch as nature set fire to the western sky.

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Whichever direction I looked, different patterns and colours were emerging,

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as though looking through a huge kaleidoscope.

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The sun sank below the horizon,

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the show over for another day.

Rawlinna

Toward the end of our third day on the Indian Pacific, the Nullarbor Plain, that had kept us company for so long

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started to change.

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As the sun descended to the horizon

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the sky awoke with colour.

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Soon after sunset, we arrived at a railway siding at Rawlinna Station. With 70,000 sheep on 8,000 sqkm, Rawlinna is the largest sheep station in Australia.

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By the light of a spectacular moon,

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hurricane lamps

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and fire pits,

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we shared platters of barbecued meats and roasted vegetables while our resident musician entertained us with Aussie favourites.

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The train stayed close, her warm glow welcoming us at the end of a wonderful evening.

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Il Castagno

When looking for a place to stay for the week after the guitar course, I found a 700 year old farmhouse near Cortona. Seeing it on the internet I thought there was no way it could possibly be as good as it appeared. I was right. It was even better!

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The owners live in Colorado and bought the villa to restore in 1999. It was absolutely perfect and, as it was their part time home, it felt very welcoming. The living room,

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main bedroom

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and bathroom

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were upstairs and the natural beauty of the house was complemented by tasteful furnishings.

Some fine meals were created in the ground floor kitchen

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which opened on to the sunny courtyard.

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The original features outside had been retained

and the small front garden was colourful.

We enjoyed relaxing in the shade with a beverage after long days exploring,

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admiring the view

of Cortona, only a 10 minute drive away.

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The shafts of sunlight on this stormy evening lent a spectacular display.

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On other nights, the sinking sun set the sky on fire.

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We knew from the moment we arrived, it was going to be very hard to leave.

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